Customer Knowledge

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Customer Knowledge is the total body of consumer understanding that an organization holds. This knowledge must be the driver behind the organization’s business response in terms of aligning processes, products, and services necessary to offer the trust value that builds customer relationships.

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Inputs:

Organizational Values

Outputs:

Customer Documentation for Business Cases

A customer-centric organization is one that actively collects, analyzes, and applies the insights of Customer Knowledge towards the innovation and production of products and services that provide value in fulfilling an expectation.

The traditional design tools applied to this element include (but are not limited to) quantitative and qualitative research such as customer personas, journey and experience maps, ethnographic research, usability and heuristic research, and numerous other interactive and generative approaches. These approaches combine to map the Human Experience (HX) realms of Emotional ergonomics (authenticity, affinity, and wellness), Physical ergonomics (anthropometrics, ambients, movement), and Cognitive ergonomics (memory, perception, attention, reason).

The Customer Knowledge gained from using these tools is the key to the economics of consumer Lifetime Value (LTV). LTV is a type of equity that carries as much power as capital; the difference being that the equity of Customer Knowledge can increase as you employ it to generate current cash flow from customers1. Customer Knowledge is a dynamic asset and as such, demands constant monitoring, assessment, and organizational adjustment to accommodate.

Customer Knowledge is predicated on the following attributes:

  • Emotive - Past experience informs future actions2 and quickly indicates shifts in attitudes towards objects (short-term) and subjects (long-term). The role of the Customer Knowledge professional is to gain personal and intimate access to this complex trust network of actions and impacts to identify critical paths that can inform future actions and direct future sales.
  • Rational - Observed behaviors and trends that contextualizes but does not explain the impact of emotive decision-making.
  • Tacit - The majority of critical consumer behaviors and the rules that guide those behaviors are contained in the collective consumer mind; there is no written protocol to anticipate why a shift in purchasing intent may occur and a direct question to the buyer may result in a poorly explained reason. Understanding the flow of an organization (and hence a buyer) requires the investment of time and attention to sieve out the meaningful (and constantly changing) purchase levers and triggers.
  • Explicit - Performance metrics and analytic assessments can offer both trailing indication and predictive insight surrounding the operational output of a product and its relationship performance3. These quantitative (and to a lesser extent, qualitative) data points are essential in establishing a consumer profile but are woefully insufficient in offering a full picture of the consumer, path-to-purchase.

Common Pitfalls

Organizations that fail to develop complete customer profiles that contain a mature level of emotive (intimacy), rational (trust), tacit (familiarity), and explicit (data-informed) content are organizations at-risk for truncated sales and growth.

Failure to capture and capitalize on the contextually rich drivers behind the consumer motive/need results in an activated product delivery cycle that may be perfectly executed at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and for the wrong audience.

This results in the following:

  • Inaccurate targeting of consumer needs – Past and anticipated future performance is critical data in targeting future customer needs and actions; they alone however, are insufficient. Accurate portrayal of customer needs is built on a broad understanding of contextual need and condition within the consumer environment. Failure to achieve and inculcate this rich knowledge across the organization results in critical misunderstanding of applied needs.
  • Poorly informed organizational efforts – Lacking rich consumer insight results in the wrong drivers being communicated and applied throughout the organization. From product/service inception and development through delivery, each step of the process carries this critical flaw of misguided intent.
  • Unrealistic sales expectations – Organizations are driven by objectives and goals and will magnify and reinforce the importance of those goals throughout the development and delivery efforts. These misdirected objectives then translate into sales objectives, which in kind fail to capture market traction.

References

  • “Return on Customer” Peppers, D., Rogers, M.
  • “Emotion, Decision Making and the Orbitofrontal Cortex”. Damasio, A.R., Oxford Journals, Volume 10.
  • “Mapping Your Mission-Critical Knowledge”, Ihrig, M., MacMillan, I., Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2015